Pros And Cons Of Al Fresco Dining

Pros And Cons Of Al fresco Dining

Attract passers-by with sidewalk seating.

Everyone likes a party, and that’s what they get with Al fresco dining.

In this article, we look at the pros and cons of Al Fresco dining, and why it might be good for your restaurant.

First, let’s define it.

Al Fresco Dining

The term Al Fresco comes from the Italian and loosely means “in the cool air.”

We use the term to mean dining outdoors.

Interestingly, the Italians don’t use the term for dining outside. In Italian, the expression Al Fresco actually means “spending time in the cooler” or jail.

Al Fresco dining is popular in temperate climates and in the spring, summer and fall months. People enjoy dining Al Fresco when the weather is beautiful. The style is casual, yet festive, with a party-like atmosphere.

If your restaurant has an outdoor patio or outdoor seating, you offer Al Fresco dining.

In hot climates, you might have covered patios or misters to keep people cool. In chilly climates, you might have fire pits or outdoor fireplaces to keep diners comfortable.

Now let’s look at the pros and cons.

Pros of Al Fresco Dining

It’s Trendy:

First, Al Fresco dining is trendy. Today’s diner wants an experience, and they definitely enjoy eating outdoors in a more festive atmosphere. (tweet this)

Increase Revenue:

You’ll attract more diners to your restaurant with outdoor seating.

This is because diners are often more comfortable eating outside. It affects the senses and seems to make the food taste fresher and therefore, better.

Some diners enjoy the view and the fun that occurs when eating outside with friends and family.

Basically, when the weather is nice, you’re adding a whole other restaurant, and with that comes added revenue.

Extra Seating:

By offering additional seating outside, you increase the number of meals you serve each night, thus improving your bottom line.

Enhanced Atmosphere:

Mother nature provides its own ambiance and great views. Plus, when the weather is beautiful, your diners feel more festive.

This merry feeling often leads to them ordering more and higher ticket prices.

The fun atmosphere also encourages more wine, beer and liquor to be consumed which again means more money for your restaurant.

Finally, because the outdoors is the attraction, you don’t have to spend as much money on décor and table decoration.

Cons of Al Fresco Dining

The Weather:

What makes eating outside so enjoyable can be its biggest con.

If the weather is bad, you lose business because you can’t fill your outdoor seating. Your wait times will be longer, and customers may get impatient.


If you don’t have an outdoor restroom, you increase the load on your indoor restrooms which can increase wait times.

You also have people constantly moving from outside to inside which can be distracting to your indoor customers.

Staff Needs:

This can be tricky. For example, if you staff for a busy weekend night, but the weather suddenly turns stormy, you have too many employees, and you have to let some go for the evening.

Conversely, if you think the forecast is bad, and you don’t staff heavy enough, but it turns out just fine, you can’t meet the needs of your dining traffic.

Make the Most of Your Outdoor Space

If you’ve decided to take the plunge and add an outdoor space to your restaurant, here are a few tips.

  • Situate your space to take advantage of the outdoor scenery – think mountains, gardens or other beautiful views.
  • Create a beer garden on the patio.
  • Have outdoor-only specials to encourage people to eat outside.
  • Make sure your kitchen can handle the extra demand.
  • Have enough wait staff to take care of the crowd.
  • Provide heat and cool when needed.
  • Add products to control insects.
  • Keep the space clean.
Al fresco Dining

Add plants to make your Al Fresco dining fresh and inviting.

Different Al Fresco Scenarios

You have several options when creating an Al Fresco dining space.

  1. Sidewalk Seating – This is one of the easiest ways to take the dining outside. Your customers will enjoy sitting outside in comfortable chairs. Add some umbrellas for shade. You’ll find that sidewalk seating attracts people walking by and encourages them to visit your restaurant. During the evening, add some candles for ambiance.
  1. Rooftop Dining – If you don’t have a sidewalk area or a patio, try expanding your space to the roof. Many big city restaurants have rooftop dining. This allows diners the view of skylines or open spaces. Consider adding potted plants or rooftop gardens. Hang lights and add candles for ambiance. Pergolas and attractive awnings add to the décor and protect diners during the day and the evening.
  1. Patio Dining – This is the traditional form of Al Fresco dining. Your customers can enjoy the patio at your restaurant where you’ve set up tables and chairs. You might also add a cozy seating area with a sofa and club chairs. Fire pits are nice additions as well. Candles, lights, pergolas and plants also add to the festive vibe.
  1. Garden Dining – Dining farm-to-table is very trendy, and diners like to see where their food comes from. This could be in any of the above spaces, or in a large garden behind your restaurant. What is important is that you landscape your outdoor dining area with the fruits and vegetables you’re serving to your customers. Consider raised beds if you don’t have the land. Grow lettuce, tomatoes, peppers and more. Landscape them attractively so they are part of the décor.

Add Ambiance

Whichever route you choose, consider adding a firepit or outdoor fireplace to add considerable ambiance and feelings of comfort. (tweet this)

Lighting is important, so consider candles, lanterns, hanging lights and torches.

You also want to look at adding a water feature such as a fountain or reflecting pool. It could also be as simple as a vase on the table with floating candles or flowers.

Fire and water work well together in a space. They increase the festive feeling and make your guests feel welcome.

Fire communicates warmth, and it’s inviting. Water communicates freshness and cleanliness.

Together, they make dining Al Fresco something fun, festive and exciting for your diners.

Final Thoughts

Adding an Al Fresco dining space to your restaurant enriches the overall customer experience.

You’ll find it adds revenue while increasing your customers’ happiness.

Do take the cons into consideration and make plans to handle them.

In the end, you’ll find an Al Fresco dining space is just what your customers want.

Be sure to add some shade and atmosphere for the total experience. Add some music, and on special nights, bring in live music.

Consider your customers’ needs and make sure they are warm or cool and bug-free to ensure their overall enjoyment.

You’ll soon be reaping the rewards of your Al Fresco space.

At Restaurant Engine, not only do we create great, responsive websites, but we’ll integrate your outdoor menu into your website. Ready to take the plunge and create a website with an online menu, blog and beautiful photos? Get your free website consultation today!

Images: Xochi Romero and Alex Holyoake

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